A Mother’s Day reflection on choices

by | May 1, 2015 | Other News

When I was a little girl until well into college, I didn’t dream of weddings, having children or a house with a white picket fence. I wanted to be a criminal defense lawyer and live in Chicago and defend big time scoundrels. That was my fairytale. It was a bit film noir, romantic in its own right and naturally included stilettos and well-tailored suits, but no baby strollers. Ever.

I distinctly remember pajama parties where I lovingly cuddled with posters of Sylvester Stallone from Rocky and listened to my friends go on about what they would name their babies, while inwardly thinking this is not at all interesting. Let’s talk about the best law school I can get into because I need that for my fantasy.

Now, at 54, with my younger daughter about to fly the coop and the older one somewhere in Madrid, I look back and wonder at my choices. Were being a lawyer first and a mother tied for that same spot the way I would do this again if I got one free redo? Or might I just have taken some years off to be a proper mother to those I adore? I have had so many joys.

I have had so many passions. While some of those have involved my wonderful family, the others belong to my career. I chose a path that at once called me and intellectually challenged me. I will never forget having Zoe; nor will I ever forget winning my first federal discrimination case. The elation was superb both times. I will put my girls second to my work if my client needs me more. Period. Often, if there were a parents’ meeting either Jack or I went. Both attending was too difficult. Soccer? Home games only. Tennis matches? Will she play? Awards day? Will she win? Though my goal was to be everywhere all the time, I couldn’t be. But they would learn that moms can’t time travel. They would get that moms have really good reasons for missing things like a client who suddenly and illegally lost a job after 27 years. They would understand that moms sometimes just end up at the wrong venue because it was calendared incorrectly.

When Zoe was around three, she was playing with another little girl and the girl mused as she carried her shimmery cape, “I am off to the ball to meet my Prince” to which Zoe responded, picking up my beat-up briefcase, “I am off to a deposition.” Of course, she had no idea what that meant and neither did her friend, as both were play acting. It made me so happy inside. Why? I didn’t want my daughter’s dreams to be about someone else. I wanted her happiness to be about what she would do with her own life and in her own damn palace.

I lived and breathed my job. I would do my closing for the girls or make them predict who deserved to win based on different fact scenarios. The girls picked up on my restlessness quickly. They never dragged me back in the house as I left for work nor cried about going to school. They knew we all had jobs. They had to go to school, learn a ton and then come home. Likewise, I had to go to work, learn a ton and then come home. At night, we would do our homework all together. Literally. It is kind of hard for kids to complain about how much homework they have when mom is sitting next to them toiling on a brief.

Being a mom who works outside the home has made me realize who I am inside the home. Knowing who I am has helped me realize what I am not. So there is little play acting. I am not too warm and fuzzy. We choose to be real. It is more efficient that way. I let Lucy know when I caught her in a lie as a child that she was on a slippery slope straight to prison someday. It may have been a bit heavy handed but I figured it would make my point. Now she just lies really cleverly or not at all. I am not sure. I explained to Zoe that you always have your own money and drive yourself to your first date just in case. Again, a bit unromantic, but honest.

When you spend every day trying to successfully run your own business you are bound to come up short. You get disappointed and frustrated and pissed off. You share that when you come home and you end up teaching your kids something quite fabulous: That in the end, you do it all again tomorrow until you get it right. There is no fairy princess, and Prince Charming is probably more interested in the head huntsman than you. So study hard, have your own personal dream where you save the world, and get up and do it, every day.

At night I treasure mentally tucking in the two most precious byproducts of being a woman, Zoe and Lucy, and realize that while I can’t have it all, there is no fun in a free redo. I’d muck it all up again anyway.

by Lisa Bertini